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Welcome business rates cut fuels economic decline fears

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By Rod Edgar
Annan and Eskdale
Welcome business rates cut fuels economic decline fears

FALLS OF more than 50-per-cent in rateable values of some Dumfries retail premises have raised questions about the state of the town centre economy.

Although it will bring a drop in business rates, concerns have prompted calls for a new rates system and a review of rents.

Dumfries Retailers Association chairman Rab Smith said: “I think they’ve finally realised in Dumfries that a lot of the properties are way too high.”

Speaking last year, the council’s rates assessor Keith Mossop warned of a ‘sea change’ following the 2008 financial crash, and spoke of ‘alarm bells’ over empty units in The Loreburne Shopping Centre.

And now after his re-evaluation, the total rateable value for The Loreburne Shopping Centre has fallen from £2 million to £991,000.

The Poundland store which occupies units 14 and 15 has a current rateable value of £116,000 — but it has been revealed that this is now proposed to fall down to £61,600.

This will mean rates payable of £30,307.20 for 2017/18.

Meanwhile, Tresspass is set to see its rateable value fall from a current £71,000 to £31,000.

While the moves will mean lower business rates, Mr Smith says it reflects the true, less healthy state of the local retail economy.

And he does not believe new businesses will be encouraged into empty premises until there is a review of rents.

He is also calling for rates to be linked to a percentage of a business’ profits.

But while many town centre retail premises have seen a fall, several pubs and hotels now face a rates hike.

Matthew Wallace from the family-owned Cairndale Hotel met with the rates department, and he said: “I gave my concerns and asked should we not be considered as a town centre business, if town centre businesses are having their rateable values reduced?”

He added: “If half the shops in the town are empty, then the town isn’t as attractive so you struggle to get visitors to come and visit Dumfries town centre.

“And if you’ve got half the number of shops, does that mean half the people coming into the town and half the number of people with money to spend with us?”



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